Science-based Religion Blog

Science and religion are not intrinsic enemies. Science strives for revelation. It is the revelation of the universe as we find it. The current picture of the universe is in perfect harmony with many religious perspectives and in stark contrast to others. This blog intends to explore these harmonies and conflicts of Science and Religion. Keep an open mind and a gentle heart please.

Location: Richmond, Virginia, United States

My family background is third generation German-American. I was the younger of two sons. My father was an English professor who had also served a Protestant minister and missionary to China. My mother was a nurse and social worker. I went to Purdue University, where I earned a B.S. degree in the Honors Physics program. I got a masters degree in Physics from the University of Southern California and also a masters and Ph.D. in Religion and Social Ethics from the USC school of religion. I have worked as a teacher and as an IT professional. I am married, with no children but two cats.

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

Atheist Oversimplification of Religion

After doing a search on the quote "conflict between science and religion", I came across the following website: In this article discussing how science and religion are different, the author says, "Religion relies on authority — from a person, book, or tradition — and its Truth is supposed to be universal and eternal." This is false, taken literally. True, some religions take such a stance toward authority and truth, but not all. Some take an opposite view. For example, Buddha warned his disciples not to make his own words into sacred truth nor to think that those who know his words will be enlightened. The only true authority in Buddhism (or at least some important strands of Buddhism) is experience. That is why they insist on meditation. That is why the Zen Buddhists preserve and teach the paradoxical assertions of the Zen masters in response to questions posed by unenlightened monks.

New Age religions are diverse, but many, if not most, stress the importance of individuals coming to their own confirmation of the ideas presented. I have witnessed many sessions in which a channel medium (one who presumes to allow a more advanced spiritual entity to speak through his/her body) answers questions from the listeners. Many of these listeners come to channel mediums expecting that the medium's special spiritual source can tell them what to do and what to believe. Over and over, these mediums have asserted (or the spirits they are channeling have asserted) that the person should not take their word for it but must verify the ideas in their own experience.

Unitarian Universalism is another religion that takes the authority of science seriously and is skeptical of ancient scriptures or religious traditions as being acceptable without question.

The author of the article makes the following statement:

"A scientific investigation starts with a question, and tries to reach a conclusion by finding evidence and applying reason. A theological investigation, though, starts with a conclusion, and tries to wiggle around any impediments of evidence and logic in order to justify that conclusion."

I have already described two religious traditions that operate like the scientist and not the theologian described above. This is an example of stereotyping and is evidence of ignorance and prejudice. Anyone who values science as much as this author does should take the same thorough approach to understanding religion as to understanding evolution or physics. Don't make sweeping generalizations based on a limited population of evidence.

The author concludes with the following paragraph:
It's true that many intelligent people embrace both science and religion. They seem to compartmentalize their thinking; it's as if they use different parts of the mind for science and religion, with hardly any interconnection between those parts. They adopt the comfortable myth that there isn't, or shouldn't be, a conflict between science and religion.
The author needs to expand his horizon and stop simplifying such a vast field of human experience as religion down to one small portion of the field. It is much the same fallacy as those who try to discredit the truth of biological evolution by plucking out a few factoids to illustrate their case and ignore the rest of the evidence because it contradicts their pet idea. I hope people don't take a similarly prejudiced view of those who embrace science as closed-minded atheists.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Just as the atheist in your example oversimplifies religion, you oversimplify atheist beliefs. Not all atheists are cold-hearted anti-God freaks. Atheism literally means "non-belief." So anyone who says they know there is definitely NOT a deity is not an atheist, because they have asserted a belief on the matter that is untestable. A true atheist does not have any opinion on anything that does not have a body of evidence for or against it. As for whether science and religion can dance together... like you said it depends on your level of belief. No serious skeptic could ever state as a fact something that cannot been tested. But to me your credibility only comes into question if that belief seeps into other aspects of your research.

I think Jessica Alba is the hottest woman alive but I have no empirical evidence and it is probably not true. That doesn't mean I can't do a scientific experiment. And if evidence surfaced that Jessica Alba was not the hottest woman in the world, I would be willing to change my views. This is another important distinction.

10:33 PM  
Blogger Coyote Z said...

I was not describing all atheists but rather responding to the views of this atheist. Not sure how you got the impression that I was making any generalizations about anyone. My point is that such generalizations are nearly worthless since there is such diversity in human experience.

5:51 AM  

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